With grocery prices at an all time high, the Canadian beef market has also skyrocketed. This means that consumers may start to see more imported meat products as an alternative.
According to the 2023 data released by Statistics Canada, the retail market prices of various beef cuts such as stew meat, striploin, top sirloin, rib cuts and ground beef averaged at $22.29 per kilogram or $10.11 per pound in July. This marks a 4.6 per cent increase from June 2023, a 14.6 per cent increase from July 2022 and a significant 24.7 per cent increase from the five-year average in July.
The overall Canadian retail beef prices were found to be the highest and are expected to remain elevated for the rest of the 2024 due to tight supplies, barring any catastrophe.
It was also reported that beef and veal imports saw a 33 per cent increase in volume from the previous year and was 20 per cent higher than the July five-year average. Year-to-date, beef imports are up by six per cent in volume and five per cent in value from last year. The annual import volumes are expected to increase slightly by two per cent from last year.
The current average beef prices in British Columbia is $23.49 per kilogram, Alberta is $22.34 per kilogram, Ontario is $21.88 per kilogram, and United States is $29.99 per kilogram.
Mike Pritchford, Vanderhoof B.C. Livestock Yard manager said the current market price hike for Canadian beef happened because consumers started to cook at home during COVID-19. He said, since demand for beef increased significantly, the United States opened their borders to import Canadian cattle which had never been the case 10 years before the pandemic.
Pritchford said that people have found home cooking was less expensive than eating out at restaurants, and it all started with ground beef.
He added that the increased price also involves Canadian regulations for producing the animals, health and environmental concerns, and land stewardship, which other countries that export beef to Canada do not have to deal with.
Pritchford said that Argentine and Brazilian beef are cheaper in the market because they have fewer stewardship regulations and environmental concerns regarding farming practices. “It doesn’t matter to the government what their practices are, as long they’re exporting or importing beef.”
He stated that other countries also have cheaper feed costs, which helps compensate for their livestock animals’ costs.
The recent drought and hay shortages also contributed with the increased cost in the cattle industry. Pritchford said that hay costs around $330-400 per ton right now, whereas last year, it was around $220-250 per ton.
Statistics Canada predicts that imports of cheaper beef cuts from international markets are expected to increase until inflationary pressures in Canada align with the Bank of Canada’s expectations or until Canadians become accustomed to paying higher beef prices.